In a trade that was just announced this morning, the Detroit Tigers have acquired Houston Astros closer Jose Veras. To complete the trade, the Tigers will send Houston outfield prospect Danry Vasquez and a player to be named later. Here’s the announcement from the Tigers’ official Twitter account:
OFFICIAL: The #Tigers have acquired RHP Jose Veras from the Houston Astros in exchange for OF Danry Vasquez and PTBNL on/before 9/15.
— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) July 29, 2013
Vasquez was one of the Tigers’ top prospects (MCB preseason rank #4), but if there’s a single position of depth in the minor leagues, it’s the outfield. Vasquez, age 19, has played the entire season in A-ball with the West Michigan Whitecaps, posting a solid .281/.333/.390 slash line. Giving away one of your top prospects is a big price to pay for a 32 year old reliever, but Vasquez’s potential is still based entirely on projection. He’s played well at an advanced level for his age, but he’s not a premium defender, not a premium runner, and not a premium power hitter at this point. The power could come in time, he’s still very young and the Tigers were/are believers in him, but he’s not going to be an impact player in the major leagues for probably four years at a minimum.
This deal, like all deals, could potentially look bad down the road, but the Tigers were never playing for 2017. They’re playing for 2013 and 2014, and Veras makes them a better team right now. As a resident of Grand Rapids, I’m sad to see that Danry will no longer be playing for the local team, but this move certainly bolster’s the outlook of the parent club.
Veras’ contract includes a $3.25 million team option for 2014 (with a $150,000 buy out) – unless the trade voids the option (edit: looks like it doesn’t) – so the he could be auditioning for next year’s closer spot even if he’s “only” the primary setup man this season. Veras has saved 19 games for the Astros this year with a 2.93 ERA in 42 appearances, but it’s sounding like Joaquin Benoit will remain the team’s closer.
Sort of an underrated point regarding this trade is that it might free up Jim Leyland to move Drew Smyly back into the old-school multi-inning relief ace role that we all loved so much. Leyland made an effort to use him more as a pure one-inning guy when it became clear that no one else in the bullpen could be trusted to get high-leverage outs, but the addition of Veras could change things. Smyly could be used as the primary seventh inning man, but he could also be used to pitch sixth and seventh on occasion should pitch count or otherwise force the starter out of the game prematurely.
At any rate, this was the move (generally, if not specifically) that everyone in Detroit saw coming, but what remains to be seen is whether or not Dave Dombrowski will be making another move before Wednesday’s deadline. The Tigers could possibly use another reliver, and there’s talk that maybe they’ll want to upgrade their middle infield options with all of the questionmarks surrounding Omar Infante and Jhonny Peralta.